Health ministry maintains COVID-19 forecast

THE Ministry of Health and Wellness says that notwithstanding the opening up of the country to Jamaicans abroad and tourists, it does not expect a change in its forecast that 1.6 million could contract COVID-19 over a year.

At a virtual press conference from the ministry Thursday, epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr explained that: “We dont expect that to change because for any virus after a certain amount of persons would have gotten it, then the susceptible population goes down and so less persons will get it. The number remains the same [but] of course its an estimate. Having confirmed cases isn’t the total picture of persons, so we may have more persons who have COVID-19 than can be confirmed.”

In early March, the ministry projected that about 800,000 people with the virus could seek medical care in public and private medical facilities and that at the height of the outbreak the island could see as many as 35,000 people seeking care within a given week.
However, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton stressed that with the country opening up, and the return of a sense of normality, Jamaicans are being warned against becoming complacent.

“The truth is that to some extent we run the risk of being victims of our success. We have done fairly well to manage the COVID-19 to date; it, however, does potentially give an impression that all is well and we can drop our guard, and then the complacency sets in. The threat is still very real and with each lifting of restriction the threat becomes even more possible to materialise to reality. We need the country to be clear that with each decision there are associated risks. We cannot guarantee absolute usual freedoms, and also guarantee absolute protection from COVID. Every decision has associated risk,” he said, stressing that for this reason each individual must take responsibility for his/her own safety by following the established protocols.

And the health minister again urged Jamaicans to become aware of their health status, as clinical assessments continue to show that those with multiple, underlying conditions are more at risk for poor outcomes and death.

He told the press conference that since the surveillance of hospitals started, as of June 3, some 62 tests have been done with one positive result, and 455 health care workers have been tested, with eight positive results. According to the minister, 224 nursing homes have been inspected, 98 of which were satisfactory, but 108 “had issues”, and have been given up to four weeks in some instances to rectify those inadequacies.

Some of the problems found include: inadequate training of personnel in cleaning and sanitisation, lack of hand hygiene facilities, lack of running water in some areas of the facilities, no social distancing provisions, no wearing of masks or temperature checks, and no isolation areas.

Dr Tufton urged those with relatives in nursing homes to insist on sanitisation standards. The homes inspected represent 3,242 bed spaces, at 80 per cent capacity.

Additionally, he advised that 460 COVID-19 tests have been conducted across the islands’ infirmaries, mainly of employees. Dr Tufton noted that the ministry is continuing to ramp up testing, which is now at 13,813, with 199 samples taken in the last 24 hours. Thirty-two tests are pending.

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